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Offshore Injuries to OIMs, Toolpushers and Drillers

Over the years we have helped dozens of OIMs, Toolpushers and Drillers.  Here are some common concerns they have faced after their injury.

Apply for Your Long Term Disability – It Can Only Help You

Many OIMs, Toolpushers and Drillers have great fringe benefits including Long Term Disability (LTD) policies that may even apply for work-related injuries. Though you may not be fond of the idea, you should immediately apply for LTD after your injury,even if your company tells you the policy doesn’t cover work injuries. There is no penalty at all for applying, it doesn’t cost anything, and it involves simply filling out three pieces of paper– one you complete, one your treating doctor completes, and a third that your company completes.  If you begin to receive LTD benefits, you will be more financially secure and you won’t need to rely as much on your company to pay you monthly maintenance.  This in turn allows you to pursue a claim, if necessary, without worrying that your LTD will be terminated.  Your LTD is entirely separate from any claim you may choose to file against your company, and your company does not decide whether or not to pay you LTD.  To learn how your LTD policy may pay you benefits until you are 65 years old.

Filing a Claim Does NOT Mean an End to Your Career

One of the biggest issues senior ranking rig workers face when deciding to file a claim or not relates to actually taking action and stopping work.  You are all very well paid offshore and you are the last ones to stop work after a serious injury, usually well past the point when you should have stopped working!  To learn how rushing back to work after a serious injury can backfire on you.  More than other positions on the rig, you guys always think if you stop work and file a claim, you will ‘never’ be able to work in the industry again. This is absolutely not true. We recently obtained a very significant confidential settlement for an OIM who then successfully returned to work as an OIM after a lumbar surgery.  You should’nt have an ‘all or nothing’ attitude about your claim, meaning if you file a claim, your career is ‘over’—it’s not necessarily one or the other—sometimes you can choose both. Generally, the longer you continue working after your injury, the harder it is to get fair compensation for your injury.

Your Company Will Try to Blame Your for Your Injury

When it comes to proving your claim, you will face issues that lower-ranking positions often don’t face in their claims.  Mainly, the company will try to blame you, as the guy in charge of the rig, for your injuries even more than they do with lower ranking positions.  It has been my experience that while OIMs, Toolpushers and Drillers certainly have more supervisory responsibility for the safety of the rig than do the roustabouts and floorhands, you guys also are very well-respected and have great safety records (otherwise you wouldn’t be in the position you are in). Often you can explain away any fault that the company tries to place on you for your accident more easily than a less experienced roustabout or floorhand.

Your Company Will Pressure You Back to Work

You were making anywhere from $100,000 up to $300,000 a year or more offshore and you will have a tremendously large lost wage claim if you cannot return to work.  Your company knows this and wants to get you back to work even more than it does a roustabout or floorhand who had been injured.

The Success Factors of Filing a Maritime Claim

The last thing I would say to you as an OIM, Toolpusher or Driller who has suffered an offshore injury is to consider the basics of a maritime claim. The success of maritime/ Jones Act claim is determined by several factors:

  • Who was at fault and by how much
  • How much money you were making
  • The extent of your injury and whether or not you can return to work
  • Whether or not you can make the same amount of money if you can’t go back to work
  • Whether or not you returned to work after your injury (thereby proving you were “able” to work the same paying job)

At the end of the day, your claim still comes down to the basics: (1) don’t give a recorded statement as your company will try to blame you for your injury (and early in your injury you don’t know if your injury will or won’t prevent you from returning to work, so you may say stuff to simply ‘keep the company happy’);  (2) choose your own doctor as the company doctor is not likely to run the tests you need or offer the treatment you need; (3) apply for LTD; and (4) don’t rush back to work. Before you return to work, ask yourself if you could walk in off the street to another drilling company and apply for your same position and get the job—if not, then when you return to work your company will be in a very dangerous place.

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